The secret to Murakami’s fiction

I’m re-reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and while some sections are time-marking and others put over ideas that are puerile, overall I’m enjoying it at least as much as the first time I read it, which must have been ten years ago. What strikes me about it, as about so much of Murakami’s work, is that its effect is dependent on its being fantastic yet everyday, and at the same time utterly lacking both arch-ness and silliness. If he fell into arch, he’d be sophomoric; if he went for silly, he’d be… I don’t know, “junioric”? He’d be a Dadaist – “yes, the world is seemingly rational but underneath everything is nuts so let’s treat it as a big joke.” I’m exaggerating for effect, of course. But that’s it. Neither arch nor Dada-ist, and thus laying the foundation for the reader to enjoy, simply, and read in wonderment. And wonderment not so much at the particulars of his imagined worlds, as of the workings of his imagination, and – more significantly, I think – the possibilities of other worlds, hidden in our own.

And that’s the point of the Times article on Murakami that came out yesterday, right? I’m not so sure… The piece irritates me, because it treats Murakami’s ideas, and imagination, as the thing. And indeed they’re impressive – but the author makes no note, and perhaps takes no notice himself, that Murakami’s real art is in writing fiction that, yes, combines the everyday and the fantastic, but also, critically – and perhaps uniquely – does so in a very particular way. And this way opens interpretative possibilities, for ordinary readers, that are, I think, both far greater and far more interesting than those opened by other mainstream fiction.